Saturday, February 28, 2009
Nagoya City University Hospital
A few years ago, I needed some surgery that wasn't available on Saipan, so I was faced with finding a surgeon to undertake my care. Part of the issue for me was that I wanted to get the care close-by, and being self-insured, I needed it to be cost effective.
My main four choices came down to Australia, Hawaii, Manila and Japan. I visited one of the top surgeons in Sydney during a trip there, and I wasn't impressed. I scratched Manila off the list pretty quickly. I've had a fair bit of experience with patients going to Manila for care, and although one of the surgeons I've worked with there is good, I've found that in general, the delivery was not up to the standards I expect when sending a patient to a major medical referral center. Sorry guys, but that's the truth. I wouldn't go to Manila unless it was a last resort. I'm sure many have had good experiences there, but seeing many of my patients return, I haven't been too happy with the quality of care they received.
Hawaii was an obvious choice because, well, it's US quality medical care. The problems with US care is that it's expensive. If I'd had the procedure in Hawaii, it would have cost me $10K. If I had had insurance, my 20% co-payment would have been $2K, for an outpatient procedure. So, I just held this option in reserve.
I started to look seriously at Japan. In the world of medicine, Japan is one of the areas, along with the US and parts of Europe, that lead medical research and publish in medical journals. I know the quality of care there is top-notch, and that the cost is reasonable. I ended up finding one of the best surgeons in the world for my condition, and headed there for my surgery. I was very happy with the quality of the care I received, and the cost was only $2K. That included the surgery, and five days in the hospital, getting fed and watered. The system of care in Japan is a little antiquated, and many expatriates in Japan complain about it for this reason, but as someone in the medical field and as someone who has experienced the care first-hand, I think that the care is on par with anyplace in the US, and even better than the US, it's cost effective.
After I returned, I tried to convince the powers that be to start looking at Japan as a place to send our medical referral patients from the CNMI. It close, it's cheap, and the quality of care is outstanding. It's taken a while, but finally the CNMI has a relationship with the Nagoya City University Hospital (NCUH), and we have liaison people on the ground to help patients navigate a foreign country.
Nagoya City University Hospital is an 800 bed medical center (CHC has 72 beds). The first patient from the CNMI that went there was an infant, a few days old, who was on the way to Hawaii for cardiac surgery, decompensated while on the tarmac in Nagoya, and was taken to the NCUH where the pediatric cardiac surgeons did an outstanding job on a very complex surgical procedure. Since that time, the relationship has deepened, and in the next few weeks, I hope to send the first ophthalmology patients there. This should provide closer and less expensive care than is available in Hawaii, and as high a quality of care. I'm looking forward to using NCUH as a referral center.